Sunday, December 1, 2019

LAT 7:46 (Jenni) 


NYT 7:28 (Jenni) 


WaPo 11:50 (Jim Q) 


Universal tk (Rebecca)  


Universal (Sunday) tk (Jim Q) 


Patrick Merrell’s New York Times crossword, “Actually….” — Jenni’s write-up

This is a fun theme despite – or maybe because of – the mansplainy vibe. The fill is slightly clunkier than I expect from Patrick; overall, it’s still enjoyable.

“Actually….” leads in to the clue for each theme answer, and they’re not precisely what you might think.

New York Times, December 1, 2019, #1201, Patrick Merrell, “Actually….”, solution grid

  • 4d [… It’s a rodent native to the Andes] is the GUINEA PIG. Not a pig. Not from Guinea.
  • 16d [… It’s a legume] is a PEANUT.
  • 25a [… It abuts water on only one of its four sides] is RHODE ISLAND.
  • 32a [… It’s an ellipse] is ST PETERS SQUARE.
  • 59a [… It was predominantly German] is the HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE.
  • 83a [… It’s an American name for a German game] is CHINESE CHECKERS.
  • 85d [… They’re lousy places to sleep] are REST ROOMS.
  • 100d [… It usually comes from sheep] is CATGUT
  • 108a [… They’re of Indian origin] are ARABIC NUMERALS.
  • 118a [… It’s a woodwind from Central Europe] is an ENGLISH HORN.


A few other things:

  • I had 4a [Russian novelist Maxim] as GORKY, not GORKI, which made 8d [Overruns] far more challenging than it should have been (it’s INFESTS).
  • 57d [Pixelatedness, for short] is a weird clue for RES, which is not great fill to start with.
  • The only LIME PIE I’m familiar with is KEY LIME PIE. It looks odd without the modifier.
  • 82d [A rancher might pull one over a calf] is, apparently, BOOT. Huh?
  • I think actual journalists might object to seeing ARIANNA Huffington identified as one.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that S STARS are cool red giants.


Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Coloring Books” – Jim Q’s writeup

This puzzle reminded me that there are a lot of books out there that I haven’t read. There’s still some classics I need to get to (still haven’t cracked the cover of Moby Dick) before I tackle some of the unfamiliar ones in this puzzle though.

THEME: Book titles that include the colors of the rainbow


Washington Post, December 1, 2019, Evan Birnholz, “Coloring Books” solution grid

  • 24A [Anita Diamant novel about a biblical shelter used by
    midwives] THE RED TENT. 
  • 33A [Anthony Burgess novel adapted into a 1971 Oscar-nominated film] A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
  • 54A [Laila Ibrahim novel with a flowery title] YELLOW CROCUS. 
  • 69A [Stephen King novel adapted into a 1999 Oscar-nominated film] THE GREEN MILE. 
  • 89A [Melissa de la Cruz novel about wealthy vampire families] BLUE BLOODS. 
  • 124A [Richelle Mead novel featuring alchemy and magic] THE INDIGO SPELL. 
  • 131A [Alyxandra Harvey novel about a young woman who can see ghosts] HAUNTING VIOLET
  • 102D [With 108 Down, educational show hosted by LeVar Burton … and an alternate title for this puzzle] READING RAINBOW.

I’ve read exactly two of these, I’m sure neither of which was covered on Reading Rainbow (THE GREEN MILE and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE). The only other one I’ve heard of is BLUE BOODS. The rest, I think, were new to me. However, all titles were inferable, thanks in large part to the theme and the ROY G. BIV order that was respected in the puzzle from north to south.

The left/right symmetry allows for theme entry placement that wouldn’t be possible in a traditional grid, though it was still funky to find the last two themers stacked on one another (and impressively so with very little resulting crud in the fill!).


  • 37D [Fruit named for an Ohio township (rather than Italy’s capital)] ROME APPLE. Ooh! Trivia clue that also helps figure out the answer!
  • 38D [When people may treat themselves to sweets] CHEAT DAYS. I think it should be “cheat season” after Thanksgiving.
  • 36A [Inspector Gadget’s foe] DR. CLAW. Really, really wanted to type DR. EVIL.
  • 79A [Business with oil stocks?] SPA. Good one. A SPA is “stocked” with types of oils.
  • 81A [Takes sides?] ORDERS. Feels like a stretch… when one ORDERS at a restaurant, does it mean one is ordering a side dish as well? The “takes” part of the clue is funky too, as ordering doesn’t involve the taking part.

All in all, a fine puzzle. I just wish I wasn’t left feeling so illiterate due to my ignorance of so many of the titles.

I was very surprised by the straightforwardness of this week’s offering too! Last week’s prediction that today’s would be a curveball was completely amiss.

Happy Sunday! And enjoy your snow day fellow North-easterners!

Gary Larson’s LA Times crossword, “Name Tags” – Jenni’s write-up

Some words are also names! Today’s theme clues describe two-word phrases as if they were names.

Los Angeles Times, December 1, 2019, Gary Larson, “Name Tags,” solution grid

  • 21a [Inspiring Gates?] is ELECTRIC BILL.
  • 24a [Upright Fosse?] is PLUMB BOB.
  • 49a [Refined Bailey?] is CULTURED PEARL.
  • 51a [Careless Montana?] is SLOPPY JOE. I thought of “Hannah” first. Wrong.
  • 64a [Vividly expressive Carney?] is GRAPHIC ART.
  • 67a [Outgoing Macdonald?] is SOCIAL NORM. This is my favorite.
  • 86a [Slothful Sontag?] is a LAZY SUSAN. I filled this one without any crossings.
  • 89a [Seafaring Davis?] is (are?) NAUTICAL MILES.
  • 113a [Forthcoming Tyson?] is an OPEN MIKE. There are a lot of Mikes in the world. Surely they could have found one who is not a convicted rapist. Mike Wallace? Mike Rowe? Mike Posner? Come on.
  • 115a [Forceful Kelly?] is DOMINANT GENE.

I found the theme mostly entertaining except for 113a, if not particularly challenging.

A few other things:

  • 2d [Game played in an anagram of itself] is POLO, and that’s not quite right. Water POLO is played in a pool, and that’s different. This is a tortured and inaccurate clue when there’s a perfectly good woman’s name that would have served.
  • 15d [“Streamers” playwright] is David RABE. That was a gimme for me; I suspect some people found it obscure.
  • 32a [Something read to the rowdy?] is the RIOT ACT. I’m not sure why this has a question mark since that’s the meaning of the term, unless it’s a play on RIOT and rowdy, in which case it’s just odd.
  • Things I know because I’m married to a geologist: 76a [Period of the first dinosaurs] is TRIASSIC.
  • The MHO is no longer used in science; it lives on in crosswords.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: the the EROICA symphony was originally dedicated to Napoleon.

I leave you with the immortal PEARL Bailey.

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36 Responses to Sunday, December 1, 2019

  1. Neal G says:

    A rancher would pull a boot over his or her own, human calf.

  2. Erik says:

    A rancher might pull a (tall) boot over the calf of her leg. And I suppose ranchers do stereotypically wear rather tall boots! So the clue is intelligible, if a little forced.

  3. scrivener says:

    I loved the NYT theme — thought it was clever and amusing. I didn’t know GORKI and although GODKI looked terrible, I couldn’t make my brain see past DOE for “unidentified person in a suit.” I had to check the grid. :(

  4. cyberdiva says:

    I too loved the NYT theme.
    BTW, Jenni, I think you omitted one of the theme answers: ARABICNUMERALS [108A: …They’re of Indian origin]

    FWIW, I didn’t think there was any “mansplaining vibe.”

    • Ethan says:

      I think it’s the title. In Internetland, the word “Actually” has almost become shorthand for the concept of mansplaining.

      The term has become a victim of concept creep, as it used to mean “men unnecessarily explaining elementary things to women due to a sexist assumption that they don’t already understand them, especially in male-dominated fields like STEM,” and now it means “men explaining things.” Granted, it would be pretty annoying if anyone, of any gender, explained that restrooms are not good places to sleep.

      • R says:

        I wouldn’t say it’s gone to “men explaining things,” but it has expanded from Rebecca Solnit’s original horrifying case of a man literally explaining her own book to her to “men explaining things in a condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner without picking up on social cues that the listener already knows this or doesn’t care.”

        • Anne says:

          The man explaining Rebecca Solnit’s book to her hadn’t even read the book! He had read a review of her book.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      I did leave that out! Fixed. Thanks. And yes, it’s the title that reminded me of mansplaining. I don’t think there’s “concept creep.” I think there’s a great deal of mansplaining – and it’s not elementary concepts. I’ve had non-medical men explain my medical specialty to me. That’s not “elementary.” eta: some of this has occurred in this very comment section.

    • JohnH says:

      I didn’t think of it as mansplaining either. Maybe the Holy Roman Empire’s being neither holy nor Roman nor an empire is an old line, and maybe a town square not having to be square is by now merely a dictionary definition. But it’s still fun to see them, and some others are quite clever. The whole idea of turning the HRE joke into other examples is fun. Besides, it of course doesn’t explain any of them, and I found myself looking online in wonderment to see how Rhode Island could possibly have got its name. Nor would I have ruled out the theme’s coming from a woman constructor.

      I had GORKY, too, at first, which slowed down that section, and I, too, took a second to get the boot / calf connection. Rather nice, actually.

  5. Jeff K says:

    WaPo theme started strong with a well known title (A Clockwork Orange) but quickly devolved into what appears to be esoterica with at least a couple of authors (Laila Ibrahim and Alyxandra Harvey) that don’t even have a Wikipedia entry, suggesting they are not widely read.

    • Perhaps putting them in the puzzle means they will get a few more readers now.

      • Jeff K says:

        i hope so, but I’m not sure that makes them better clues/answers. When a constructor utilizes a phrase that’s decidedly not in the language, it generally raises the scowl-o-meter, we don’t generally say, we hope it’s use in the xword leads to its greater usage.

        That said, I’m fully supportive of more female and non-dominant culture voices/clues/answers.

        • Jim Quinlan says:

          I agree with you to a certain extent… but in a puzzle that’s themed like this, I more enjoyed uncovering the unfamiliar titles. THE GREEN MILE and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE I was able to enter with no crosses at all as soon as I figured out the theme. What’s the fun in that? Better was to know I had to insert a color somewhere in the answer and put a little elbow grease in to get the rest. I definitely understand and appreciate your point though… I suppose it depends on the solve experience you want.

          • Mikem says:

            I had never heard of any of the books except for A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and THE GREEN MILE, but I think the rest were all fairly clued so that one could figure out the titles once one figured out the theme and got a couple of the crosses.

            Evan, I liked the smiley face formed by the black squares! Was that intentional?

        • “When a constructor utilizes a phrase that’s decidedly not in the language, it generally raises the scowl-o-meter, we don’t generally say, we hope it’s use in the xword leads to its greater usage.”

          We don’t generally say that, but these aren’t just random phrases I made up hoping they would catch on. They’re real books made by real people, I thought they fit the theme well, and I think I crossed them fairly.

          I’m glad you’re welcoming of non-dominant voices in crossword answers, but just a thought: Maybe it’s on dudes like us not to decry books written by women (as most of the books in today’s puzzle were) as “esoterica” or as phrases that are “decidedly not in the language.” If my puzzle or others can help give those non-dominant voices a little more exposure, that’s a good thing.

          • Norm says:

            The crosses were fair, but that’s about all that kept me going, and I’m not about to try to read any of them. Stephen King? Ick. Not into horror.

    • David Steere says:

      I quite disagree with Jeff K. I think Evan’s puzzle was completely lovely–covering the spectra of colors and authors. It makes not a whit of difference that some of the writers are lesser known…and who cares if they don’t have a Wikipedia entry? Not that you meant to be, Evan, but thanks for being our “preceptor” of sorts. I’m always grateful for your Sunday creations.

  6. PJ says:

    NYT – I thought the puzzle was about Lou-Ann Poovie.

  7. Norm says:

    The abiding image that NYT left me with was Cliff Clavin from Cheers. “It’s a little-known fact …” and I can just see/hear him saying, “Actually, …” whether he ever did so or not. I was amused for a moment, but the barrage of pedantic nits [redundant?] was wearisome by the end.

    • pannonica says:


      • Norm says:

        <3 Of course I loved the show …. The sweet little Vietnamese [Hanoi HS] manager of the coffee shop where I get my morning cup does not know all the reasons I smile when she greets me every weekday morning.

  8. Paul Coulter says:

    Universal – when I have a LAT, I often post outtakes on the Crossword Corner. The nice folks over there seem to like this peek into the constructor’s world. For this Universal, I wanted to mention that the seed entry didn’t make it, since David and I couldn’t find a match we both liked. Just to get it out there in the puzzleverse, it was EVERYGODHASHISDAY, with the clue, “Calendar company’s motto in ancient Rome?” Eventually, we agreed on the dog one as a 10, clued something like “Deity in charge of kielbasa and chorizo?” I won’t reveal the answer here, since the review hasn’t posted, but you get the idea.

  9. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT: Still more evidence of the Great Crossword Constructor Conspiracy … 105A in today’s Newsday puzzle by Stanley Newman: “”Reading” to rowdies” = RIOT ACT. [Insert theme from “The Twilight Zone” here]

  10. Pilgrim says:

    Question re LAT: Shouldn’t 59d “Rio greetings” be HOLAS, and not OLAS? From what I can tell, “ola” in Spanish means “wave,” but in the sense of a “wave” on the ocean, not “wave” hello.

    It seems “wave” hello in Spanish would use a word other than “ola.”

    • Martin says:

      Rio is in Brazil, where they speak Portuguese. “Ola” is the greeting, not “hola,” there.

      (“Rio” is river in both languages, so it makes for a good trap but “Rio” commonly means Rio de Janeiro, not any Mexican or other Spanish-speaking city named for a river. At the expense of triggering some offense, I will add that, actually, Rio de Janeiro is named for a lagoon (“ria”), not a river, but thanks to one of those cartographer’s errors it was misnamed “Rio” on a map and the name stuck.)

      • Pilgrim says:

        Thanks. Pretty dumb on my part forgetting that not everyone in South America speaks Spanish. Sorry, everyone!

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